Mitrokhin, Former Yabloko Leader, Detained at Presidential Administration for Kadyrov Protest

January 26, 2016
Sergei Mitrokhin of the Yabloko party in front of the presidential administration building with a sign saying "Fire Kadyrov!". Photo by Stanislav Krasilnikov/TASS

LIVE UPDATES: Sergei Mitrokhin, former leader of the opposition Yabloko party, was detained at the presidential administration as he was taking part in a series of solo pickets demanding the dismissal of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.

The previous issue is here.

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Mitrokhin and 3 Other Opposition Demonstrators Charged with Unauthorized Pickets and Released

Sergei Mitrokhin, the former head of the Yabloko party, and Anton Antonov-Ovseyenko, professor of philology, detained earlier today for protesting against Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s threats against the opposition, were booked by police on charges of “unauthorized demonstration” under Art. 20.2 of the Administrative Code and released, OVD-Info, the police monitoring group reported.

Police claimed that the two were demonstrating together, which would violate the law on picketing, although they said they had kept to a distance of 50 meters apart, which is authorized for solo pickets. Mitrokhin said he had not even managed to stand with his poster before he was detained.

A third person arrested with them was Stanislav Belyayevsky, and a fourth was a Party of Progress member whose name was not available. Evidently they will have to appear later in court and face a fine or short jail sentence.

Irina Kalmykova, who has been charged five times with unauthorized demonstration and faced a trial today where she would have likely been sentenced to some years in labor colony, fled to Ukraine to seek political asylum and announced today on her Facebook page that she had arrived safely.

Kalmykova had demonstrated twice against the falsification of the parliamentary elections, twice in support of Ukrainian political prisoner Nadiya Savchenko, and once in support of small business. 

Another demonstrator who was a “repeat offender,” Vladimir Ionov, age 76, also fled to Ukraine after facing a suspended sentence of 3 years of labor colony. 

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick 

Donald Trump Defends Putin After Litvinenko Murder Allegations
As many readers know, this week an official British inquiry found that Russian President Vladimir Putin probably ordered, or at least sanctioned, the assassination of Russian defector Aleksandr Litvinenko.

American politician and businessman Donald Trump, who is the leading Republican candidate for nomination for President, has defended Putin. The Telegraph reports:

Mr Trump waded into the case saying he had seen “no evidence” of Mr Putin’s involvement, adding: “They say a lot of things about me that are untrue too.”

The front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination has previously said he felt a “great honour” when Mr Putin praised him as an “absolute leader”.


Mr Trump told Fox Business: “Have they found him (Mr Putin) guilty? I don’t think they’ve found him guilty. If he did it, fine but I don’t know that he did it.

“You know, people are saying they think it was him, it might have been him, it could have been him. But in all fairness to Putin – and I’m not saying this because he says ‘Trump is brilliant and leading everybody’ – the fact is that he hasn’t been convicted of anything. Some people say he absolutely didn’t do it.

Donald Trump defends Vladimir Putin over Alexander Litvinenko murder

But Mr Trump told Fox Business: "Have they found him (Mr Putin) guilty? I don't think they've found him guilty. If he did it, fine but I don't know that he did it. "You know, people are saying they think it was him, it might have been him, it could have been him.

View full page →

Jan 27, 2016 03:28 (GMT)

Both Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump have had lots of good things to say about each other over the last few months:

Putin praises 'bright and talented' Donald Trump –

The feeling is apparently mutual. Putin offered high praise for the billionaire businessman-turned-Republican presidential front-runner on Thursday during an annual news conference with reporters. "He is a bright and talented person without any doubt," Putin said, adding that Trump is "an outstanding and talented personality."

View full page →

Jan 27, 2016 03:29 (GMT)

The Interpreter’s managing editor James Miller saw Donald Trump speak, via satellite, to the Yalta European Strategy conference in Kiev in September. Trump made generic statements about how Putin does not respect President Obama but would respect him, and somehow this would solve Ukraine’s Russia problem. Others in attendance, however, were concerned that a rising group of populist politicians in both America and Europe would enable Putin instead of defying him:
Back then, few thought Donald Trump could win the nomination. However, a separate analysis of Trump’s most recent poll numbers show that, in fact, some think Donald Trump could be the odds-on favorite to win the GOP race:

Yes, Donald Trump Really Could Be The Republican Nominee For President

Yes, really, honestly, truly, Donald Trump could win the Republican nomination. In fact, some betting agencies now have him as the "odds-on favorite" meaning that if you bet on Trump to win the GOP nomination, and he wins, then you will actually lose money. Donald Trump has been ahead in the national polls since last July.

View full page →

Jan 27, 2016 03:38 (GMT)

James Miller
Russian Leaders Deny Corruption Allegations Regarding Putin and Chaika – And Make a Show of Battling Corruption
Russian leaders have been busy counter-spinning claims they are corrupt and launching various programs to appear as if they are tackling corruption.
Yesterday, in an interview with the BBC, US Treasury official Adam Szubin said simply, “Putin is corrupt” and that the US had known this “for many, many years.” Szubin said:

“We’ve seen him enriching his friends, his close allies, and marginalising those who he doesn’t view as friends using state assets. Whether that’s Russia’s energy wealth, whether it’s other state contracts, he directs those to whom he believes will serve him and excludes those who don’t. To me, that is a picture of corruption.”


Mr Szubin would not comment on a secret CIA report from 2007 that put Mr Putin’s wealth at around $40bn (£28bn). But he said the Russian president had been amassing secret wealth.

“He supposedly draws a state salary of something like $110,000 a year. That is not an accurate statement of the man’s wealth, and he has long time training and practices in terms of how to mask his actual wealth.”

Presidential administration spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied Szubin’s allegations and said the US should provide proof, TASS reported (translation by The Interpreter):

“If they leave such official statements without proof, it only casts a shadow on the reputation of that agency.

It is not our job to demand proof.”

Peskov said a recent BBC film, which examined reports of Putin’s secret fortune, was “pure invention and slander which has no basis.”
He noted that the allegations came at the same time as “quasi-judicial exercises in certain countries, with publications in entirely respected publications of analogous content” — a reference to the Litvinenko Inquiry which found that “probably” Putin had ordered the assassination of the former spy.
Peskov also said, “I know that the president doesn’t have a yacht.” He denied any corrupt ties between Putin and the oligarchs Gennady Timchenko, former co-owner of Gunvor Group and Gazprom head Aleksei Miller, both of whom were placed on US sanctions list for their role in the annexation of the Crimea.
While Peskov is furiously denying any ties to corruption, other leaders are making a point of showing how they are fighting corruption — and that the world supposedly recognizes this.
Sergei Ivanov, head of the presidential administration, speaking at a meeting of the president’s anti-corruption council, said “the world community” had praised Russia’s efforts to battle corruption, citing a UN-sponsored meeting that took place in St. Petersburg last year as evidence of such international endorsement.
Ivanov said that 2,500 anti-corruption offices had been established in Russia, and that the government would battle conflicts of interest, reported.
Ivanov also said that 340 officials had been fired “due to loss of trust” and 176 were removed “due to conflict of interests.”
Aleksandr Tkachev, the controversial governor of Pskov Region implicated in the beating of blogger Oleg Kashin and persecution of former deputy Lev Shlosberg made a demonstrative appeal to the government to have a special commission examine whether he had a conflict of interest due to his family business.
Ivanov also proposed that a separate offense be added in the criminal code for small bribes up to 10,000 rubles ($128).
Even so, he noted a “pleasant surprise,” that officials, who were perceived by the public as potential bribe-takers, had themselves filed 5,500 reports on attempts to involve them in corruption or bribe them. On the basis of these reports, 2,863 criminal cases were opened and 1,700 people have been convicted.
Putin himself was more pragmatic, saying at the meeting of the anti-corruption council, which was broadcast on TV1, that there would likely not be visible success in this struggle. 

“People encounter corruption in local places, so-called everyday corruption. On the whole, there is very much work to do. And it is not a question of achieving any bright victors in this field today 
or tomorrow, most likely this is a complicated task, even hard to achieve, but if we stop, it will be worse, we must move only forward.”

Ivanov also rejected reports from Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation regarding Prosecutor General Yury Chaika and his two sons.

“I did not find anything there, at least, in my view, there were no facts, accusing the prosecutor general of violation of some laws — precisely the prosecutor general. It is not worth a hill of beans.”

He said he hadn’t read Navalny’s report, but that it was “more political than substantive.”
Ivanov also characterized a draft law under consideration by the State Duma that would ban the relatives of officials from engaging in business as “populism” and he found no basis for banning relatives from “lawful activity.”
Navalny has continued to file suit against a number of media outlets, including Novaya Gazeta, for publishing Chaika’s characterization of him as being a paid agent, as a maneuver to try to get a court to accept a libel suit. So far it has not worked.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Russian Military Prosecutor Refuses to Investigate List of Soldiers Killed Submitted by Human Rights Activists
The Russin military prosecutor’s office has refused to investigate the deaths of 159 soldiers who were killed between January 2014 and July 30, 2015, in a list submitted by human rights advocates, Novaya Gazeta reports. Most of the soldiers on the list died in August and September 2014, which coincides with the Battle of Ilovaisk, when numerous Russian soldiers were said to have been killed.
Sergei Krivenko, chair of the commission on military-civilian relations in the Presidential Council on Human Rights, said the prosecutors did not find anything wrong in the cases.
Maj.Gen. Maxim Toporikov, head of the 3rd oversight directorate of the Main Prosecutor General’s Office replied as follows (translation by The Interpreter):

Oversight of compliance with legislation in conducting checks and investigations of criminal cases has been established and carried out by agencies of the military prosecutor’s office. The lawfulness of the decisions made had been checked. No basis for their change has been found.

Krivenko submitted the list in December 2015 in an effort to get recognition of the deaths in combat in Ukraine. Most of the cases did not have clear information about the circumstances or places of their death.
But relatives and journalists have confirmed the deaths of a number of Russian soldiers in battle in Ukraine, as we reported.

In May 2015, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree making it a crime to reveal deaths of soldiers in peace time, i.e. even in an undeclared war. The Russian Supreme Court then upheld the decree as constitutional in November, after a group of journalists appealed it. Now that the subject of the Russian soldiers killed is designated a state secret, the independent press and human rights groups are taking risks reporting on them.

The number of such deaths reported by relatives, the media and human rights group is at least 500. Recently Gruz-200 (Cargo 200), the group headed by Elena Vasilieva named after the military term for the bodies of soldiers killed in battle, issued a list of 1,858 names of fighters said to be Russian and killed in Ukraine, not all of which have been verified.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick 

Mitrokhin, Former Yabloko Leader, Detained at Presidential Administration for Protest Against Kadyrov
Sergei Mitrokhin, former leader of the Yabloko party, was detained at the presidential administration as he took part in a series of solo pickets demanding the dismissal of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, TV Rain and reported.
Prof. Anton Antonov-Ovseyenko was also detained, along with two others whose names were not available.

Translation: Sergei Mitrokhin and Anton Antonov-Ovseyenko were detained at the presidential administration.

The Russian opposition has been protesting a series of ominous and provocative statements by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov in recent weeks, in which he has characterized liberal opposition figures and journalists as “fifth columnists” and “traitors” who should be arrested or put in psychiatric hospitals. Yesterday, as we reported, President Vladimir Putin endorsed Kadyrov, and Kadyrov himself said “any means necessary” should be used to oppose “the non-system opposition.” 

OVD-Info, the police monitoring group, said the Yabloko picketers were taken to the Kitai-gorod police precinct, but journalists have not been allowed inside the building and a barrier was placed by the door. Sofya Rusova said reporters were told to call the police chief, and said lawyers would have access. She also said police confiscated the protesters’ posters, and took Anton-Ovseyenko’s phone.
They were still awaiting news of the charges.
In theory, the law on demonstrations does not require that solo picketers obtain permission, but in practice their ID has been checked and they they have been arrested. Mitrokhin pointed out that when a picket was staged in September in front of government buildings to protest the involvement of Pskov Governor Andrei Turchak in the beating of blogger Oleg Kashin, there was no police intervention.
Yabloko is calling on Kadyrov to apologize for his statements calling the opposition “traitors,” and urged President Vladimir Putin to dismiss him.

Mitrokhin, a past deputy of the State Duma and Moscow City Council remains active in the Yabloko party. In December 2015, Emiliya Slabunova, a deputy of the Karelian legislature, was elected as the new chair of Yabloko at the party’s congress.

Anton Antonovich Antonov-Ovseyenko, a philology professor, is the nephew of the revolutionary Vladimir Aleksandrovich Antonov-Ovseyenko, the son of Anton Vladimirovich Antonov-Ovseyenko, the famous historian of the revolution and dissident, and himself the author of the best-selling book Bolsheviks, 1917.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick